SASAKI TO FIGHT LISTER AT UFC
08/12/2006

A press conference was held in Ochiai, Tokyo at the GRABAKA Gym on August 4th to announce that GRABAKA team member Yuki Sasaki will compete in the UFC's Ultimate Fight Night 6, to be held in Las Vegas, Nevada on August 17th.


Sasaki's opponent will be Dean Lister, an experience mixed martial arts fighter and PRIDE veteran. At the conference, Sasaki said that since "either Gono or Misaki will win the PRIDE Welterweight Grand Prix" he will go after the UFC belt and GRABAKA will take over the world.

Pride Fighting Championships: How did you feel when you heard you would be fighting in the UFC?

Yuki Sasaki: The UFC is the event that started mixed martial arts and I was happy because, in that sense, I will be able to go back to my roots and fight.

Pride: You will be fighting in the Ultimate Fight Night, an event for young fighters to grow in, rather than the main UFC event. Did you feel some disappointment because of that?

Sasaki: No, not at all.

Pride: What is your impression of your opponent, Dean Lister?

Sasaki: I've seen him before at Abu Dhabi. He was good, winning most of his fights in the open weight tournament by submission. He's lost twice in PRIDE but he's good at attacking from the bottom, he can fight all-around and my image of him is that he's physically strong, too.

Pride: Do you think you and Lister will match up well?

Sasaki: It doesn't matter whether you match up well at that level. I think there are only strong fighters and weak fighters.

Pride: Do you have a strategy for the octagon?

Sasaki: Yes, I do. If he uses (the cage) well, I could get pushed up against it or be put into a dangerous position, even if I'm on top, so that's what I'm thinking about right now.

Pride: Do you think the ring or the octagon is easier to fight in with your fighting style?

Sasaki: In my mind, the cage is better for fighting that want to push their opponents. I'm not very pushy, so I think the ring is easier for me to fight in.

Pride: Are you nervous about fighting in a cage?

Sasaki: Nervousnot really. I think it's motivating in a way.

Pride: There are teams, such as Brazilian Top Team and Chute Boxe Academy, whose strength as teams are highly rated, aren't there? Does your team, GRABAKA, want to show the world your strength as a team?

Sasaki: Yes, of course we do. Kikuta, Gono and Misaki are active in PRIDE, right? I want to make a place for GRABAKA in the UFC.

Pride: This will be the first time for a Japanese fighter to compete in a UFC-related event in a long time. Does that mean anything to you?

Sasaki: Part of me wants a smooth, quick fight but really, I'd rather just slug it out with him. He'll probably come in for tackles, though. I will be their first Japanese fighter in a long time so I want to show them that Japanese fighters go in fighting, pushing forward with spirit.

Pride: What does your training schedule look like now?

Sasaki: I will leave Japan on the 13th. I'm not going to do much after I arrive in America, just relaxing, focusing on stretching and light exercises before the fight.

Pride: Who will be your corner man?

Sasaki: Kikuta will go with me.

Pride: You've had many overseas fights this year. What's the reason for that?

Sasaki: I think fighting overseas is more interesting. It's completely different than Japan. People that have been overseas understand. The environment and preparation in Japan is completely prepared and it's very easy for fighters to fight. However, you never know when it will be your turn to fight overseas and the weigh-ins aren't very serious either. (laughing) In that sense, they are good experiences for me. It will make you mentally tough.

Pride: Do you want to use that mental toughness and climb into the PRIDE BUSHIDO ring?

Sasaki: I would be a welterweight in PRIDE. Gono and Misaki are fighting there now and I believe that one of them will be the Champion, so I want to become the UFC Champion. It would be great if I won this match and could fight for the belt in the next match.

Pride: You would be a middleweight in the UFC.

Sasaki: The current Champion is Rich Franklin.

Pride: So you want GRABAKA to take all of the world's belts?

Sasaki: Yes! I really want to keep piling up the world's Championship belts on the shelf at the GRABAKA gym. There wouldn't be any other gym like it in the world.

Pride: Do you want to keep fighting in the UFC after this?

Sasaki: I don't know how it will actually play out but I would like to win this fight and challenge the Champion.

Pride: Is there any particular way that you want to fight?

Sasaki: I have to win this fight to get another chance so I just want to win and secure another fight.

Pride: When did you get the offer?

Sasaki: Around the end of June. I received the offer and said yes right away. I thought this would be great. I can fight against someone tough in the octagon!

Pride: Your opponent is one of the world's best grapplers, having won the 2003 Abu Dhabi competition. Do you want to try to submit him or knock him out?

Sasaki: Both. (laughing) He is one of the best grapplers but I think that will also give me opportunities. He's probably pretty confident that he won't get caught in a submission. That's what I want to take advantage of. I also want to be all over him stand and knock him down, *bam*, with my magnificent punches. (laughing)

Pride: Are there any techniques that you have been working on in particular lately?

Sasaki: I used to a lot of kicks but recently my balance has been bad, so I haven't used them much. Now I'm practicing kicks more and my kicks are improving so you might see a nice kick or two in this fight.

Yuki Sasaki's fight in this UFN is one element of the cooperation between DSE and the UFC. Another reason that Sasaki had so many fights overseas this year was because they came at the request of DSE.
According to DSE officials, they are using this opportunity to test Sasaki, "We want him to make any opportunity for himself. We have extremely high hopes for Sasaki and we feel he's a magnificent fighter. However, Gono and Misaki are already in our Welterweight Division, in addition to Ryuta Sakurai and Namekawa, so it will be up to Sasaki to take advantage of this chance and win."
Recently, Sasaki traveled to England in March to fight in the WCFC Tournament, winning the first round by submission and losing the second round by submission. Also in England's Pain and Glory event, Sasaki defeated Paul Taylor, who was on a seven-match winning streak, by submission.
"I think Sasaki's aim is to compete in BUSHIDO's Welterweight Division," the DSE official added. "In terms of spirit, I don't think he lacks anything compared to those that are currently competing (in BUSHIDO), so I'd like to see him in a since match or a reserve match at the November 5th BUSHIDO. He can make that opportunity for himself in this match, so this will be a very important fight for him. We think that he might submit Lister and enter BUSHIDO's Welterweight Division ready to go to war."